Tag Archives: High school

Rockstar Daydreamer

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Rock star baby, Rock star.

Rock star baby, Rock star. (Photo credit: fmgbain)

Someday he’s gonna make it to the top
And be a juke box hero, got stars in his eyes~ Foreigner

I’ll never forget when I played my first gig in a bar.  I was 14 years old and our band Mulberry Tree got a gig at a dive called “Europe Gyro” in Kent, Ohio.  We got there to set up and the stench of alcohol, cigarette smoke and urine had filled the air.  A couple bands were playing with us and treated us like second class citizens, so of course we went on last.  It was a Sunday night before school on Monday.  We went on at 10:30 pm to an audience of one black man, drunk out of his mind and yelling out, “play some Jackson 5 man!”  My Dad had set up the gig for us.  At one point I dropped my pick in the middle of a song and was deeply embarrassed when he picked it up off the ground and handed it to me.  I think the microphone picked up my words, “get away Dad!  Get away!”

Not long before this, we had our first experience in an amateur recording studio.  The man who recorded us was a total throwback to the 70’s and 80’s.  He had a wild long pony-tail down to his butt cheeks.  He played the saxophone.  We recorded all our Mulberry Tree Songs live, and then I did the vocals.  We finished a whole album of 7 songs in 12 hours.  We laughed at Duane, our drummer, because we had to duct tape headphones to his skull, they kept slipping off because he banged his head to the beat while drumming.

All of this led to the pinnacle for us.  We had a chance to play in front of our peers in High School at what Hudson High School in Ohio called “Rock Fest”.  It was 1996.  Hits like “Stupid Girl” by Garbage and “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins were on the radio.  Duane, Mitchell and I were nervous before the show.  We snuck into a bathroom upstairs in the High School and turned off the lights.  We lit up a cigarette and shared it.  We hopped up and down pumping ourselves full of adrenaline before the show.  Then the moment came.  We were on.  I stepped up to the mike, plugged in my Cherry Red Sunburst Gibson Les Paul, and wiped away the hair hanging over my eyes.  We played our first song, and through the whole show the crowd stayed into it.  We were deeply hooked on the accolades we got from the masses of peers looking onward.

And afterwards, we were able to sell our album to all of our friends.  It was on cassette tape.  I had to make copies myself on my high-speed audio dub recorder, and we gave some weed to a friend of ours for making our “high-tech” album art on his 95′ PC Computer.

But after the show, Mitchell’s Father cornered me.  He proceeded to tell me that “red flags” were going off in his mind, because in one of our songs I had a lyric that sang “smoke it up, toke it up, drink it up, gulp it on down”.  He was sure that I was singing from personal experience.  I assured him that I was writing fictionally, and felt bad for all of the poor people who were caught up in the mess of addiction.  After a lot of interrogation, Mitchell’s Father backed off.

I came up to Duane and Mitchell and they were asking me; “What did he say? What did he say???”  I told them that he tried to get me to admit I was doing drugs and drinking, and that I was sure I pulled one over on him.

I was becoming a liar.  I certainly struggled with lying to my parents, because we had such an open, transparent relationship.  Nonetheless, somehow, lying became a new weapon that I felt I could use to protect the things I did in darkness…  I began lying to many people, including my parents and some of my close friends.  I began to abandon my conscience and step into a whirlwind of hedonistic freedom of which I had not experienced yet.

Jazz Cigarettes, the Abolishment of Chastity, and Fred the 57-Year-Old Coke Head

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English: Howard McGhee, Brick Fleagle and Mile...

English: Howard McGhee, Brick Fleagle and Miles Davis on piano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My inhibitions were at an all time low in the summer of 1997.  Nonetheless, my social confidence was higher than before.  The sun and warmth crept into northeastern Ohio and brought with it an optimistic openness to new friends, new experiences, and greater reckless abandonment.

Jazz music became a new passion for me through my friend Leron Clink.  He was an upright and electric bass player.  He loved Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis amongst many others.  We started to jam regularly and create a strange, compelling acid jazz/rock concoction.  Leron was a Junior in High School and more familiar with eccentric characters.  He introduced me to a new potency of marijuana called by the name of “kine bud”.  The urban dictionary defines “kine” as Hawaiian for “excellent” (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=kind%20bud).  This dope usually cost us about $50 for an eighth of an ounce, as compared to $20-$25 for an eighth of an ounce of what was called “shwag”, i.e.- low grade brick weed that was likely illegally shipped from South America.  Sometimes shwag would also be cut with formaldehyde or liquid PCP, making it “wet weed”- a much more toxic yet potent form of it that would leave one feeling like rubber in addition to having a pounding headache.

Leron had a high-end appetite for pot, and always had kine bud.  His weed usually was purple, light green, orange-red and sprinkled with a crystallized white glow.  One or two hits of this stuff would send me babbling in riddles, in a comatose, borderline hallucinatory state.  Not only would I begin to become psychologically addicted to being stoned, but my wallet would be continually more and more empty…  so empty that I would have to sell a little bit of ganja to support my habit.  It may be a downward spiral, but it is true that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:14)

I became an occasional “middle man”.  This meant that I knew a few dealers that would get large quantities of marijuana, and I would supply my friends with it in smaller amounts.  I would hook up any unsuspecting kid with weed, no matter how young or innocent they were.  Because I was a persuasive type of personality I would even convince younger kids to try it.  Any time someone wanted to buy a $20 bag I would get it for them, and then keep a little bit for myself.  Marijuana was in a continual supply for me.  I owned a purple bong and a pipe… people began to call me “Benny”.  I began to wear tie-die t-shirts.  I was establishing myself as a wanna-be hippie of the late 90’s within my little sphere of influence.

The music of the summer of 1997 was anything but hippie music.  Ska music by “The Mighty Mighty Bosstones” was the new thing.  Alternative rockers were pop bands like Matchbox 20 and Tonic.  In my mind, the songs were cheesier than processed Velveeta.  My friends and I were still into classic rock.  We didn’t care what was happening in mainstream culture.  Let me rephrase that…  we thought we were ten times more artsy and cool than the conventional rock of our age.  Wait a minute…  I guess this meant that, by the standards of the 2010’s, we were “hipsters”!  What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.  (Eccl. 1:9)

Our band Mulberry Tree began to fall apart, because we were all going in different directions musically.  We all did our own independent projects.

I attended parties often, whenever I had the chance I would lie to and manipulate my parents to get to them.  I was still 15 and didn’t have a driver’s license, so I would always find ways to get a ride.

Once I was at a party at Caelie Shrugg’s house.  She lived with a single mother who was never home.  I have no idea what combination of substances I was on, but I know that it led me into the presence of Madiera- the girl whom Mitchell and I had been arrested the summer before for being drunk and breaking curfew.  Somehow I ended up at an outdoor fairground with her, and I definitely was burning up in my maleness and youth.  She came on to me heavy…  almost taunting me for not making the first move.  Madiera was a notoriously “bad girl”, and all of us sophomores knew it.  She was a Junior in High School.  She was experienced… a force of virile potency.  She was wild and partied like crazy.  Something in each of us younger boys was attracted to the wildness in her.

And the next thing I knew Madiera and I were together.  In some summer haze of partying and riding the wind I looked…  and there she was at my side.

Madiera and I were high all of the time.  We were drunk for most of the weekend.  The private encounters that would ensue were reckless and discombobulated.  We were caught in a deep infatuation.  I was disillusioned in believing this was a true ascent to masculinity.

Boys at the age of 15 feel this way in every generation.  They become convinced that sex is a rite of passage into manhood.  I can’t even speak long about the pressure my friends and I would place on each other to enter into this mysterious realm of spiritual and physical connection.  Though I now believe that sexual freedom can only prevail guiltlessly within an exclusionary marital union, I didn’t believe this then.  I got caught up in what my friends believed.  Even the pure love that I seemed to feel for my childhood love Harmony began to fade into a deep memory.  I wanted to make the rite of passage.  God gave me up in the lusts of my heart to impurity, to the dishonoring of my body among others. (Rom. 1:24)

Madiera and I did share that intimate moment together, insecure and exposed, confused and unsure.  I didn’t know what to think after it had happened.  Did I even really know her?  Did we understand each other?  Were we really friends, or were we just confused children, bouncing around like pinballs in a teenage wasteland?  I told her that I loved her…  Maybe it would grow with time.  Maybe we would understand each other.

The relationship continued into the late summer, where we eventually embarked on a camping trip and had an encounter with Fred the Coke Head.

We were on a campsite with a group of our friends.  One of our friends, Meghan, had a Dad who was a throw-back hippie.  He loved to drink beer and smoke pot.  He didn’t seem to have a problem drinking beer and smoking pot with us- a bunch of minors.  We set up camp and sat around the campfire all night, toking and drinking, telling wild stories.

Meghan’s Dad had a friend that apparently lived in an RV.  This guy seemed higher than all of us, even at the height of our wildness.  This was Fred the Coke Head.  He was a 57 year old man who consumed drugs like he was a 21 year-old hippie from 1969.  This caricature described his inner-child rather well.

We stayed up all night partying, and at the cracking of twilight Fred broke out some weed, which he said was “special”.  He only invited Madeira and I to partake of it, because he said that we were probably the only ones who could handle it.

He lit up a joint, and we passed it around.  Every hit made me cough like Dr. Dre in 1992.  What ensued was a tingling euphoria that I had never felt before.  It was as if I had taken a bite of Eve’s apple and soared into a realm where I thought I could be a god.

It’s important to say that I’m leaving many details out because I don’t remember them!  That’s how constantly intoxicated I was in these days.

As the sun arose Madiera and I had another encounter in her tent.  We were crazed by the combination of THC and cocaine which we had just inhaled in smoke form…  the first time I had smoked “Chronic”.  I had never felt so torn before.  My emotions were with Harmony, but somehow I found my young, drastically un-sober body with Madiera.  Our encounter ended, and we got no sleep after.  We got in some strange, sleep deprived, strung-out argument shortly afterwards.

On the way home from camping I felt sick within myself.  No amount of marijuana or alcohol or whatever else could mask this feeling.  What was I doing?  I was having a heavy physical relationship with this girl and I wasn’t even sure if I loved her or even really knew her!  All we did was get high and fool around!  Did we even know who the other really was?

I would have to break it off with her.  I was afraid to do it, because I so thoroughly felt physically connected to her because of all we had done…

A Stoner’s Break-Up Story

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Malmo Heartbreak

Malmo Heartbreak (Photo credit: Paul Stuart Iddon)

It was the first week of my Junior Year at Hudson High School.  I knew it had come time to break the news to my then girlfriend Madiera that I was going to break up with her, because I was digging on my ex-girlfriend and best friend Harmony all over again.

Madiera gave me a lift home from school on the day I knew I had to do it.  In usual fashion we packed a glass pipe full of bright green herb and smoked it in her grey Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme as soon as we pulled out of the school.  Ironically, she asked if we could go to Hudson Springs Park to hang out, which was the place I had spent time with Harmony a couple days before.  It was the place where I had realized I wanted to break up with Madiera.  Madiera and I would usually go to the park to fool around and party.  I knew this time was different.  We parked in the parking lot of the park and finished the bowl of weed.  Then we went for a walk down the trail around the bend of Hudson Springs Lake.

I’m doing my best to remember here, because I was stoned constantly in these days, and particularly in this moment..  Madiera and I came to a clearing off of the beaten path of the trail where no one would likely venture.  A lot of the talk was plastered babble of which I don’t remember.  I know she had a look in her eyes like she wanted to kiss me and maybe get something happening.  At some point I said, “We need to talk about something Madiera.”

A dark silver cloud seemed to be cast over us as her demeanor shifted.  “What, Ben?”

I went on to tell her that I wanted to break up with her.  She protested at times in desperation, and in all my shallow manipulation I couldn’t bring myself to hurt her.  I still claimed that I loved her, because somehow I thought it was the right thing to say.  We babbled on in circular stoner language, and she was saturated with shock and anger.  I felt like a toothless weasel.  I’d reach in at times to hug her, not knowing what to do.  She was in anguish.  At some point amidst our mind-baked cackling and rambling she did ask me about Harmony.  I told her we had hung out and I did have feelings for her again.  This enraged Madiera even more.  She wouldn’t believe me that nothing had happened between Harmony and I.  I knew it almost had but luckily we hadn’t completely crossed the line.  Madeira drove me home and we shared deeply awkward goodbyes.

I did find out later that Madiera had hooked up with a guy on the same weekend I had almost kissed Harmony.  She had been at a Frat Party and gotten drunk… ending up osculating (which only means kissing) with some unknown kat with a flat-top hairdo and the 1997 equivalent of Axe ‘Kilo’ body deodorant emanating from his pores.  It made me not feel as bad about what I had done.

But Madiera was heading into her senior year, and we had truly been close friends, though maybe not eternal romantic lovers.  She was heart-broken.  She did slip into heavier drugs shortly after that.  Her anger for me magnified for a time.  I deserved it for what I had done to her heart.  She dated guys sporadically and opened herself to total relational freedom.  Yet I lived my life much like a confused squirrel beside the street pavement of existence- running around aimlessly with only a prayer at not getting smashed by the reality car of absolute authenticity.

Harmony and I were together again.  I felt as if I should update her on the magnitude of drug intake that I was used to.  Harmony liked to smoke a little ganja here and there, but mostly filled her habitual nature with cigarettes… She smoked Marlboro Mediums, and she occasionally dug into mixed cranberry juice and vodka to fill and inebriate her Friday nights.  She was nothing near the caliber of crazy I was.

I was smoking at least $150 worth of high grade pot a month by this time, and usually more.  I was inhaling 15 cigarettes a day, almost a pack.  I was able to consume 9 beers in a couple of hours and mix them with a high amount of dope smoke in and out of my lungs without vomiting for the next hour afterwards, and usually got drunk at least one or two nights a week.  Harmony had to catch up to me.  Now that I had been all the way around the proverbial sexual “bases” in the hanky-panky baseball diamond more than a few times, I would have to convince her to join me in that area too.  I was foolishly excited to get her up to date in my new-found world of vice!

Harmony was not so quick to join me.  She was cautious, and hadn’t violated her own continence like I had.  She was also alarmed by the amount of marijuana that I consumed.  I lied and told her I would cut down a bit.  This just meant that I would smoke more of it by myself than in public.  Thus my habits deepened in the caves of secrecy.

But Harmony was good for me in so many ways compared to where I really was within myself.  She rekindled an inspiration and love in me I felt had been veiled behind a fog for some time.  We would certainly have weekends where we drank a significant amount of vodka and cranberry juice, and sit on her friend Dana’s roof smoking cigarettes.  One night, Harmony got drunk enough to vomit on the roof.  I took care of her to help her feel better.  Secretly I was always more wasted than everyone else around, because I would enter into the party after smoking grass on my own.  My higher tolerance for poison also gave me an ability to look after Harmony and her friends.  They didn’t have the annihilated guts to consume venom like me.  I partied like an insane 22 year old living in Miami, Florida.  I was only 16, and living in the suburbs of Hudson, Ohio.

About every song on the top of the radio in September of 1997 was not to my personal taste, except maybe Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”.  These were days where the thundering guitar and explosive drums of Jimmy Page rang in my ears constantly.  I wanted to live in the world that Robert Plant sang about in “Misty Mountain Hop”;

Walkin’ in the park just the other day, Baby,

What do you, what do you think I saw?

Crowds of people sittin’ on the grass with flowers in their hair said,

“Hey, Boy, do you wanna score?”

And you know how it is;

I really don’t know what time it was,

So I asked them if I could stay awhile.

I was a 16-year old kid and it was 1997.  Something in me longed to meet with these gypsies of the 1960’s and 1970’s, of which Robert Plant seemed to speak about…  these songs spoke to me of a concocted utopia where people constantly took drugs, rapped about wild philosophy and listened to music.  I wanted to recreate that world in my little sphere.  My hair was longer…  almost to the point of pulling it behind my ears.  I bought more tie-dyed shirts.  I longed for the world of Woodstock and the hippies to come alive in my existence.

I didn’t know the darkness that lurked, unveiled behind this façade of beauty and hedonistic freedom.  I was attracted by the outer skin of it, and not the inner soul of the beast that hid himself behind.

The Guy With the Bong

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A bong with a circular carburation port in the...

A bong with a circular carburation port in the front of the bowl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep, back in my Junior Year of High School, I was “the guy with the bong”.

My girlfriend Harmony and I were seemingly doing getting along as winter crept into the year of 1997.  She had a greater moral conscience than I, and refused to give in to sex and rampant drug abuse.  We fooled around on the edge of these things, but she always kept her standards higher than mine.  At the time, I was somewhat frustrated, but held her in such high esteem that I chose to respect her wishes.  Looking back now, I realize that she was doing the honorable thing.  Yet in a culture that appeared then as it is now; driven by sexual tension and immediate gratification, it was more than difficult to maintain such a level of perspective without some sacrosanct sentient being empowering us.  I was driven by mere carnal knowledge and the hunger of now…  the present need…  genitive satisfaction.  Therefore, God gave me up in the lust of my heart to impurity, to the dishonoring of my body among anyone who would join with me. (Rom. 1:24)

After all, my views about God were varied.  In my mind, “He” could have been an “It” or “She” or even an alien or unseen cosmic force.  I wasn’t sure that God existed.  In some of my more paranoid moments I may have questioned whether God was there or not.  Mostly, I felt that God was some impersonal type of force that got kicks out of watching people on the earth make a mess of themselves.  I may have pulled this idea from Greek myth, because the Greeks believed that their gods were truly making a mockery of them and out to play tricks on and destroy the people they had authority of.  Mostly God to me at this time was a figment of my imagination.

I could have written the lyrics myself to “Sex and Candy” by Marcy Playground.  (Go ahead and play the video, you know you’ve got to hear it again fellow 90’s junkies!)  www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KT-r2vHeMM

I smell sex and candy here

Who’s that lounging in my chair

Who’s that casting devious stares

In my direction

Mama this surely is a dream

I was living in a pseudo-dream world.  THC from constant marijuana smoke was consistently floating around in my brain, causing wild philosophical madness, strange dark creativity and depression, as well as apathy, sloth, lapsed superego reactionary prowess, and a deep narcissism and hedonism that stole my entire being and spread around my soul like red food dye in a glass of ice water.

Along came New Year’s Eve, 1997 to 1998.  I worked carry-out with all my friends who were employed at Tai-Wah Chinese Restaurant.  It was the busiest night of Chinese carry-out all year.  We were slinging Sweet & Sour Chicken, Beef & Broccoli, Egg Foo Young, and Fried Rice like wild ping-pong players on speed.  We knew the reward would come, a New Year’s Eve Party at Cynthia Plum’s house complete with endless alcohol and reckless abandonment.

We got out of work after a busy night.  I was such a bum in these days that I didn’t bother to change out of my work clothes.  After all, I was the guy with the bong.  Mitchell, Harmony, Doug Rankin, Chris Plummer, Dinah Sortec, and others all piled into cars and we headed over to Cynthia Plum’s house, ready for wildness.

I was the guy with the purple bong.  I had a quarter ounce of strong weed all saved up and ready to diminish throughout the evening and share with whoever was ready and willing.  I packed up a bong and filled it with cran-grape juice on the car ride over.  A couple of friends took a hit or two, and then began to quit on me.  “C’mon man!”  I yelled in my stoner accent, “It’s New Year’s guys, don’t quit on me!”

Misery loves company folks.  I was so constantly high, that I couldn’t take it when people didn’t want to party themselves sick and crazy just like me.  I finished the bong by myself nonetheless, and the party had begun.

The night was filled with a haze of nicotine and THC smoke, beers being “bonged” down my throat, or in other words swallowed in one gulp, with the help of poking a hole in the bottom, and cracking open the can at the top, while sucking down the cheap barley and hops through the hole.  We only drank Natural Ice or Milwaukee’s Best beer, the cheapest and most similar to urine-flavored beer on the market.  We just wanted to get a buzz and lose our inhibitions.

At one point in the during the night I went out in the snow covered Northeast Ohio night to take a leak in the woods.  I don’t know why I didn’t choose Cynthia Plum’s restroom to do so.  I think I just wanted to go outside and look at the stars.  I did gaze at the stars when I had found a pine tree to take a whiz on.  I gazed up, thinking, “man I am SOOOO wasted!”  I was lost in the universe and eternal supernova sky above.

I walked in and exclaimed, “Hey guys!  Ready for some more weed?  Hahahahahaha!>(**#&$”

I had my bong raised in the air.

Everyone pointed down toward my pelvic area and began to laugh hysterically.  I looked down and realized that I had tinkled all over my pants.  I suppose I hadn’t aimed very well and hit a pine branch that had sent it down my pant-leg.  “Oh man guys, I didn’t pee myself man!  I totally just missed when I wizzed outside!”  There were no explanations that could save me at this point.  My friends just continued to point and laugh.  Luckily Harmony had gone home by this point so she wouldn’t have to witness my humiliation.

I begged Cynthia Plum for a pair of her father’s pants.  She only said, “Sorry Ben, you’re on your own! …”  She looked down at my pants again and exclaimed,   “So gross!”  I spent the rest of the night in a basement room, by myself, smoking Camel cigarettes…  the lyrics of “Sex and Candy” ringing in my head.

Mama this surely is a dream, yeah

Mama this surely is a dream, dig it

Midnight came and went without me.  Eventually I got a ride home.  I don’t really remember.  I only know that the pee had dried and I passed out in someone’s backseat like a crazy vagrant.

The First Time I Did LSD

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pupil  of doooooom

pupil of doooooom (Photo credit: Aero Racer E)

The humiliation of being a flagrant drug addict gets old, and brings one to myriad crossroads.  On the freeway of addiction one road sign reads; “It’s time to cut back”.  Another sign reads; “It’s time to quit altogether”.  Yet these signs are small and seem to speed by in an incoherent blur.  They unnoticeably lurk in small font on the side of the road while the vehicle of life is travelling at seventy-two miles per hour.  Then, a large, green exit sign with huge white letters states what has seemed obvious all along; “Try new drugs” it exclaims in your face.  It seems to beckon to you like a side road hotel after a 10-hour road trip.  You slow down and prepare to exit, to a new freeway, and a new wild ride where you do not know the destination at the journey’s end.

John Lennon tried LSD almost by mistake with George Harrison in 1966.  They were spending time with a friend that they would later call “Dr. Robert” in a song on the album “Revolver”.  The lyrics lilt in a melody laden with psychedelic oblivion;

Well, well, well you’re feeling fine

Well, well, well he’ll make you

John and George’s friend convinced them to try this new drug, “lysergic acid-diethylamide” and put some in their tea, and said it was all the rage among young swingers and hipsters of the time.  An hour later Lennon described his experience, that they were going up a “lift” (British for “elevator”) and swore that the building was on fire and were in a frenzy, and then minutes later, the fear abated and everything went to normal.  This was the way of the mysterious acid trip…  a game of Russian roulette in the mind.  Would insanity strike?  Insane joy?  Fear?  Reckless abandonment?  Power?  Violence?  Harmony with the universe?

In the second semester of my Junior year of High School in Hudson, Ohio, I joined the Orchestra to play percussion.  I had heard it was an easy gig and we had a sweet-hearted teacher named Mrs. Bush.  Mrs. Bush made music fun and easy, and didn’t have incredibly high requirements for our excellence.  Also, if one joined the orchestra, they could be in the steel drum band with Mrs. Bush’s son, Mark.  This was a larger motivator for me to join, because my friend Mitchell played bass in that group, and aside from all my personal creative pursuits I longed to be busy playing music again.

In the group were a great collection of misfits, including one David Wilt.  David Wilt was six foot two inches tall.  He had long hair that he pulled behind his ears.  He wore tie-dyed shirts and smoked the best weed in town.  He also sold acid.

David Wilt didn’t only find acid to distribute, he actually made it at home.  He had a conversation with me one day about it.  “Hey Benny, I know that you dig smoking dope.  Have you tried acid yet?”  I answered in haste, “Ummm… no man.”

I had a pensiveness about LSD.  I knew that the Beatles and Hendrix did it.  But didn’t this stuff put people in the Looney-bin?  I talked further with David Wilt about it.

“Look man…”  I said, “Isn’t that stuff kind of crazy?”

“No bro,”  David replied, “This stuff is killer man.  You just have to be in the right state of mind to take it.”

“Right state of mind?”

“Yeah man.  If you like have a bad thought, or are in a bad place with weird people when you take it or something, then your trip will go bad.  But if you surround yourself with the right situation and the right people, you’ll have like the best time of your life bro.  I’ve done it a bunch of times, and never had a bad trip!  It’s 10 times better than getting high or drunk, and it lasts like 8 hours!  It’s also cheap man, 5 bucks for a hit, or take two hits if you wanna really trip your brains out.”

The reasoning made sense to me.  In fact, it seemed like taking this drug would even guarantee a good situation!  Just remove any bummer from your surroundings, and it would go well.

I didn’t know then that David meant that you couldn’t have a notion of conscience or awareness of mortality while you were on an acid trip.  I didn’t know then that you couldn’t have a friend around that really cared about your health and well-being, because they would bum your trip.  I only knew that I wanted to get higher than I was before.  And hey man, if this drug helped produce songs like “I am the Walrus” by John Lennon and “Axis:  Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix, then I was in.  I wanted to make heavier, deeper, more colorful music like that too.

My theological framework was one that adopted the religious and spiritual views of my heroes.  John Lennon sang “All You need is love”, so I wanted to follow him.  My room was actually a John Lennon shrine.  There were times when I actually believed I was praying to his spirit, and asking him for guidance.  I know it sounds wild, but these were some of the many wild religious thoughts that crossed my mind in the middle of my pursuit of “higher consciousness” or “enlightenment”.  I didn’t have any specific belief about God or gods that may have existed beyond me, just a plethora of ideas that came and went in and out of my mind.

I wanted to write songs like the Beatles did, so the next step of risk seemed to be taking the plunge into heavier drugs.  “So Dave…”  I said to my tall, new hippie friend, “Can I score some of this stuff off of you?”

I also convinced my bass player friend Mitchell to take this stuff with me.  I told him how we’d probably make music like the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era.  I told him it would open up our minds more.  I tried to convince my drummer friend Duane to do it with us.  He just agreed to be there with us and get stoned with us while we were tripping.

I bought the weirdest dose of LSD that I would ever buy from there on out off of David.  It was homemade, and not cut into regular doses.  It looked like a bunch of purple, dried-up, crooked jello-glass.  David explained to me that he didn’t divvy it out correctly, and just to try little pieces of it at a time, and eat more if it wasn’t kicking in after an hour.

The moment of this monumental risk came like an adrenaline flood of chaotic fear and excitement.  It was the feeling one would have before going on a rollercoaster or bungee jumping.  Would we make it to the other side without losing ourselves, or would we understand what Jim Morrison meant when he sang “Break on through to the other side”?

Mitchell and I got Duane to drive us to the Acme Plaza where we always hung out on a Friday after school.  I had all this strange purple acid in a little baggie, which I had paid $20 for.  I also had a $40 bag of mid-grade Mary-Jane, a lighter, and a new blue and purple glass pipe I had recently purchased to cement my constant pot habit, and I also had my trusty pack of Camel Lights.

Mitchell and I each ate a small shard of what looked like purple jello glass.  We were totally freaking out.  “Oh man!  We’re going to trip, we’re going to trip!”  Many colorful expletives were used to exclaim our excitement and fear.

We lit up a pipe of dope and passed it around in Duane’s car.  The stoned feeling began to kick in and I don’t remember much of what happened after.  Though I do remember when the acid kicked in.

We were walking towards a large water tower in the town of Hudson, Ohio, and the water tower began to vibrate and pulse.  A body buzz kicked in that seemed to overtake me with total numbness.  I think I turned to Mitchell and said, “Man, are you high right now?” And he said with a euphoric foolery, “Oh yeah man!”  I honestly don’t remember the rest of that day.  But I do remember more of the next time we took it.

Mitchell and I had a history exam to study for.  It was a good front to convince his parents to let us have an overnight study session at his house during the week.  Mitchell and I shared one thing- a crazy streak.  We had a hunger for adventure and wildness, and loved to break rules.  I brought my study stuff over on a Wednesday night the next week, and we faked like we were studying from 8pm to 10pm.  His Dad came in and told us we should go to bed.  I had a sleeping bag on the floor and Mitchell was in his bed.  We ate more of that weird purple LSD that I had.  We actually split up the bag and finished the rest of it- what was probably the equivalent of 2 hits each, because it was certainly a mild batch (something I would discover later).

Mitchell and I were into prog-rock and were listening to an album by Steve Hackett- the former guitarist for the original Genesis (with Peter Gabriel- pre-Phil Collins corniness).  We played his album “Voyage of the Acolyte” – a wild, instrumental, medieval, psychedelic masterpiece.  The acid kicked in, and the song from the album called “A Tower Struck Down” was played about 10 times consecutively throughout the evening.  The song made us laugh like little children with all it’s dissonance and maniacal melodies.  Click on this link to hear it:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxl6RLlKkHI  (Listening to it now I laugh, because I realize how ridiculous it was- yet at that point we literally thought the music was going to make the ceiling cave in!)  We stared at Mitchell’s ceiling fan and watched it rotate, which he had put a blue, red and black lightbulb in.  We began to explain that it was “The Wheel of Fire”, because the fan blades would catch trails of each other and look like a vortex.  The guitar of Steve Hackett wailed through the night, and we got no shut-eye, all the way up until 3 am, when Mitchell’s Dad busted in with grave anger, likely because he heard our hysterics and brain-fried laughter.  “What in the world are you boys doing?”  He exclaimed…  well… he used more expletives than that.  “Uhhh…  nothing Dad!”  Mitchell exclaimed, his eyes dilated and wide open.  “We were just about to go to sleep!”

Of course we got absolutely no sleep, and the sun came up.  We went to school that next day, sleeping in class and telling all our friends about our wild experience.  The Beatles albums like “Revolver” and “Magical Mystery Tour” seemed to make more sense to me, as did Pink Floyd’s “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”.  It would be our own version of the year 1967 soon, and the trip was about to get wilder than ever.

My grades plummeted to D’s and F’s, my relationship with my parents grew more strained.  As for my girlfriend, Harmony, I told her about this first trip and encouraged her to take it with me.  It freaked her out really bad and she wanted nothing to do with it.  She made me promise I would never take acid again, and I agreed.  I decided that I would keep taking it, and not ever tell her.

The Psychedelic Orchestra Bus

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The Common Vision Bus

The Common Vision Bus (Photo credit: Vicki & Chuck Rogers)

In the Spring of 1998 The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” was high on the charts.  My life was a reflection of it’s message.

No change, I can’t change

I can’t change, I can’t change

But I’m here in my mind

I am here in my mind

And I’m a million different people

from one day to the next

I can’t change my mind

No, no, no, no, no, no, no

I can’t change

I can’t change it

I was truly lost in my own mind.  I was truly “a million different people from one day to the next”, and didn’t really feel I needed an identity anymore.  I was who ever I was around.  I was wherever the party was.

I had never felt before as much as I did then that I was literally rolling with the wind.  It seemed wherever my feelings led me was where I would go.  I had no rules, and no boundaries.  My days were a blur, a mysterious haze of the unknown.  All up until this point in my addictive pattern I hadn’t really had many “sobering moments”.  It’s funny how drugs do this to a person’s mind.  The beginning stages of partying came with a few intense consequences…  I got busted and arrested.  I got into dysfunctional relationships, my grades in school were sinking, and my relationship with my parents was more strained every day.

However, the lure of being high always drew me back in.  None of these things seemed like fair enough warnings at the time.  I got busted, so I would find a way to lie and sneak around more…  which could have potentially gotten me into more trouble but I didn’t care.

I got into dysfunctional friendships and relationships with girls, so I found a way to keep them seemingly functional by lying and partying with these people all of the time.  It’s funny when you begin to surround yourself with “drug buddies”.  They feel like real friends, but really you’re just on the same substances all the time, and without the substances the connection could be lost.  In the middle of the party scene it’s so hard to tell who your real friends are, because everyone seems like they either want something from you or are out to get you.

My grades in school were falling apart, but I was convinced that it didn’t matter.  I assured myself that I would probably be a famous rock n’ roll tragedy someday, like Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix.  Who needed good grades when they were headed for a life beyond anything school could offer?  I didn’t have a plan to go to college.  I wanted to get high and make art.  I didn’t care anymore if I made some great impact on the world, and if I did, it would be my own ascent to notoriety and subsequent fall to chaos and oblivion.  Or…  I would work at a Burger joint or something…

My relationship with my parents almost seemed non-existent.  They were workaholics.  At this time in our lives they fought and swore at each other all of the time.  We never talked.  We avoided each other at home.  They never asked me how my day was going.  I would leave the house all night and come home at 10pm, which was my curfew on school nights, and 12pm, which was my curfew on weekends (I realize how lenient this was now!)  Normally, I would show up an hour late.  My Mom would get in my face about it, and I would blow her off and go up into my room.  I was behaving like some adult far before his time, though in so many ways I was a little boy.

Junior year in High School was certainly a time when all my peers were beginning to think about their “future”.  People all around me were studying hard, signing up for college courses they could take in High School to get ahead of the time, and starting to look at where they might apply for colleges.  I, on the other hand, was the guy with a bong and a guitar.  Though to be honest, I hadn’t played the guitar much lately…  Secretly, I resented my peers as they moved forward in life, and left their trail of dust in my stoned face.

And beyond all of this, psychedelic drugs were now a part of my life.  At the time I was convinced that LSD was some sort of window into a new world, a spiritual door.  I resonated with people like Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey who seemed to think that LSD opened up ones mind to the hidden spiritual forces within and without.  During late 1966 and early 1967, Leary toured college campuses presenting a multi-media performance “The Death of the Mind”, which attempted to artistically replicate the LSD experience. Leary said the League for Spiritual Discovery was limited to 360 members and was already at its membership limit, but he encouraged others to form their own psychedelic religions. He published a pamphlet in 1967 called Start Your Own Religion, to encourage people to do so. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Leary)

Much like Timothy Leary, I wanted to show people about my new religious experience.  I was ready to turn others on to this weird drug, and really believed that I was helping them.  It seemed easy to adopt this religious view at the time, because I grew up being told to find or create my own spiritual path.  There was no thought that I could blaze a legitimate trail to any sort of salvation or redemptive love during this period in my life.  If I would have known what was about to transpire in my mind  in the next few months, I may have thought twice about the journey I was undertaking.

The Orchestra, under the leadership of the sweet and gentle Mrs. Bush, was to take a bus trip to Chicago to compete in a regional orchestra competition.  My good friend Mitchell and I were both in the orchestra together, along with a number of our friends.  Of course, I hatched up a crazy plan to turn this entire trip into a psychedelic experience.  We had an 8-hour bus ride, and 2 days in Chicago.  The choir would be travelling from Cleveland to Chicago too, right in a bus behind us.  My girlfriend at the time, Harmony, was in the choir and on that bus.

Since I had embarked upon the LSD experience, Harmony and I began to experience turmoil in what seemed to be a close friendship and dating relationship.  After her bad reaction to the first time I had taken a trip, I had decided to keep all my trips a secret.  Since that time I had done acid about 3 times, and never told her.  In my mind I was hoping that she would eventually decide to try it herself and then she would join me.  I figured until then the secret would hurt no one.

So naturally, I told all the friends who were dropping acid with me not to let the secret out to Harmony.  This is how a ball of lies begins to spin out of control.  It’s like a snowball at the top of a mountain covered with snow, and as it rolls on in turns into an uncontrollable avalanche.  The torrent hadn’t arrived yet, but the momentum was building.

So we set out for Chicago on a high quality bus, which the orchestra had completely for ourselves.  The inside of the bus looked like the interior of an airplane, comfy seats, bathrooms, and wide windows.  I was thinking at the time that this would be an amazing “trip”- with the double meaning intended.

I had sat next to Mitchell, and our friend Adam, and older friend Dirk, who was a senior and deeply into the drug scene.  They had all agreed to try this crazy drug on the bus ride.  It was an 8-hour trip, which was exactly how long the drug would usually last.  Mitchell, Dirk and I took some.  Adam was pensive.  The bus hit the road towards Chicago.

As mine began to kick in I had a conversation with Adam.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to try it.  “I just don’t know, Ben!”  He said.  “I mean, everybody knows me as this good Catholic kid who loves Jesus and gets good grades…  but I have this side of me that just wants to get high and now even try this…  what should I do?”

Adam must have been looking for a reason to go against his conscience.  After all, he was asking me, Benny White, to give him advice on whether he should keep being a “good kid”, or delve more deeply into the abyss.

“Look man.”  I said, “If anything at all bro, this stuff will make your spiritual life better.  It’s the most amazing experience someone could ever have.  Who knows, maybe it will bring you closer to Jesus!”

I can’t believe the things I used to say.  If I would have known that Adam would have become immersed in the drug scene and given up his faith in Jesus, maybe I would have had a different piece of advice.  I was like the serpent at the tree of knowledge, and it wasn’t long before Adam put the little piece of paper on his tongue and joined us on our kaleidoscopic bus ride.

It’s important to say that I had no real deep thoughts about God or the afterlife during this time.  Jesus was just a vague religious figure to me.  He didn’t have any significance as anyone with deity or preeminence- those things were open to the eye of the beholder in my view then.  If I ever had thoughts about God, they were strange, creative, random ideas about who He/She/It might be.  I didn’t know or think of God as a person that could be understood.  The only times that I had thoughts about any moral failing and desperation were moments when I had upset my girlfriend, Harmony, or when I was having a moment of self-loathing.  These moments may have driven me to some form of penitence, but if things went back to smooth sailing for me I would quickly be able to return to a state of wanton hedonism.  I didn’t care about cosmic consequences or some type of divine purpose, because I was ignorant of these things.

I imagine that we came off like a bunch of goofy fools to every other participant in the Hudson High School orchestra on that bus.  But when someone is that high, at times they can be completely unaware of their surroundings.  I don’t remember much, but I’m sure we were blurting out things that made no sense and acting crazy.

There is one thing I remember vaguely.  We stopped at a rest stop to get lunch, and the choir bus behind us stopped too.  Harmony approached me and asked me to have a cigarette with her.  I nervously agreed, feeling out of control.

As we spent time talking I must have been babbling in strange riddles and acting scary and zoned out.  She asked me what the heck was the matter with me.  I told her I had smoked some pot before the bus trip.  She looked at me with suspicion.  The lies continued.

The bus made it to Chicago.  We spent time hanging out at the hotel, of which I don’t remember much at all.  I do remember that night though.  We had more hits of acid with us, and were planning on taking them when we visited the Art Institute of Chicago.  Mitchell and I were always the impulsive and crazy ones though.  As we were coming off of the other trip, we decided to take 2 hits each of this other stuff we had…  at midnight.  We were rooming with Adam and another friend, Brett Smith.  We didn’t tell them what we had done, though they obviously figured it out later.

They were sharing a bed and Mitchell and I were on the floor in sleeping bags.  As they tried to get to sleep the acid kicked in.  We were up all night giggling like little boys, and mocking Adam and how he behaved on the drug while we rode the bus.  He had heard every word we said, and they had gotten no sleep because of us.  Mitchell and I stayed up all night, hallucinating in the dark…  looking at the streetlights casting shadows on the wall.  We got up in the morning as the sun came up, and walked into the parking lot, feeling like we had been through hell.

Adam confronted us about how we had slandered him the next morning, and we felt like jerks… sort of.  We were so high we thought he couldn’t hear us.  Hard drugs really do make one unaware and careless about other people’s feelings.

Mitchell and I hadn’t entered slumber land for an entire night, and we were then carted in a bus to downtown Chicago.  Mrs. Bush unleashed us on Michigan Avenue, the main drag of metro-Chicago, and told us to meet back at a certain time to visit the art museum.  Mitchell and I were completely out of it.  Dirk thought we were idiots for taking LSD the night before, and he was certainly right.  I was about to be introduced to a new drug as the effects of sleep deprivation psychosis kicked in.

Dirk had these little pills that went by the name of “Adderall”.  He crushed one up for me and told me to snort it, and it would keep me awake.  These were prescribed to kids who had ADHD, and had methamphetamine in them.  He told me it was a light version of speed, and would keep me wide-eyed.  I told him, “Dirk, I’ve never snorted anything before!”  I had always sworn that I would never do anything like that.  Dirk assured me, “Don’t worry man, it’s as harmless as a cup of coffee bro.”  For some reason I believed him.  Again, in the mind of an addict the consequences are never clear, but just the immediate gratification of the moment.

I snorted 20 mg. of Adderall and woke up instantly.  We went to the Art Institute and Dirk and Adam took acid.  The museum was certainly filled with incredible art, and they mocked us more for not waiting to do the drug there.  Adam had forgiven us, at least in appearance, for what we had said about him the night before.  We trudged our way through the art museum, a bunch of unhinged teenagers as we were.

Later that night we went to the orchestra competition.  It had been a long day.  I had blown my mind apart with drugs, and was rapidly deteriorating from the Adderall.  It came time to give our orchestra performance.  We waited for our turn to set up, and before long it was time to play.

The melody of the strings lilted in my mind like a cacophony of slithering amphibians and gooey pudding in my mind.  I was so out of it that I couldn’t even make out the refrains and changes in melody.  This was odd for me, because music had always been such a passion of mine.  But I hadn’t even written a song in months…  my life had become engrossed in the LSD experience.  I was lost.  I was floating like a dingy feather into the ethereal wasteland of the stratosphere.

These thoughts rolled through my mind, and all of a sudden everyone was staring at me…  “Your cue is coming up!”  Dirk whispered to me.  Before I could even think where we were in the piece, I took the handles of the Zildjan cymbals in front of me, and clanged them together with great force… completely off beat.  Mrs. Bush stared and me in shock, and rolled her eyes.  Everyone in the orchestra tried to keep from laughing.  We got last place in the competition.

We got a night of sleep that night, and it wasn’t nearly enough.  Then we awoke early to head home the next day.  I hadn’t barely seen Harmony the entire time we were on the trip.  I was avoiding her for fear she would find me out.  We did make a stop on the way home and I found her.  She looked so mad at me I almost couldn’t look her in the eye.  I had been doing more of Dirk’s Adderall to try and stay alert.  Harmony came up to me and looked me straight into my bloodshot, dilated-pupil eyeballs and said, “Ben, you look like crap.  You look like you got run over by a truck.”  Of course I back-peddled.  “Oh Harmony man…  ha ha…  I’m just all tired and stuff.”  I said this as I was in a rushed speedy frenzy.  “Ben…”  She replied, “What are you on?  You don’t even seem like yourself!  I feel like I don’t even know you anymore!”

“Look Harmony, I’m cool!  I’m just tired, ok?”

“Yeah whatever Ben!  You’re a LIAR!  That’s what you are!”

“Fine!  Just leave me alone then!”

(Of course there were many variegated epithets used in our dialogue which I’m not displaying here.)

We boarded the bus and continued our ride home.  I was more depressed than ever.  Would Harmony dump me?  Would she find out that I was snorting pills and eating acid every weekend?  There had to be a way to keep her in the dark, I thought.  My whole life was beginning to collapse.  Everything that mattered to me was crumbling.  I looked out into the rainy night and the streetlights that lined the route 80 turnpike.  The “Welcome to Ohio” sign rolled up past us.  We were on our way home, but in so many ways, I was further from home than ever.

A Stoner on Local Cable TV

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The Human Condition [a tribute to René Magritte]

The Human Condition [a tribute to René Magritte] (Photo credit: [ piXo ])

One of the worst things about drug addiction is the tolerance factor.  When one uses drugs frequently they need more and more of them to get the effects they once experienced.  This was the case for me as April and May of 1998 rolled around.  I had been using harder drugs like psychedelics and prescription speed.  My marijuana use was through the roof.  To get any effect from using pot I would have to do 4 or 5 times the amount that I normally did to even feel it, and at times I didn’t even enjoy it any longer.  This did a number on my lungs.  There were times at the end of a dope smoking session that I would feel as if I could barely breathe.

It’s amazing the illusion one cultivates in the midst of addiction.  Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible.  (Proverbs 10:23)  It’s a horrible thing to have your health deteriorating at the age of 16, but when you’re high you almost don’t care.  As time rolls forward you convince yourself that committing slow suicide is the way to go.  People used to ask me at the age of 16, “So Ben, what do you see yourself doing with your life?”  I would answer, “I don’t know man.  I might not even make it past 20…  But I’m going to party as hard as I can until then.”  Drugs had become my god.  I even believed that my destiny was destruction, and my glory was in their shame, because my mind was set on earthly things.  (Phil. 3:19)  I was even willing to die because of drugs and for drugs, because they seemed to give me my only moments of manufactured happiness amidst the desperation and brokenness of the social order I observed around me.  On the outside I was the court jester, a king of fools, a peace-child wanna-be sixties hippie, and on the inside I was growing more cynical and angry every day.  The alienation that one experiences in the midst of chronic drug use is profound and deeply devitalizing.

Despite the popular music of 1998, early 90’s bands like Alice in Chains began to sing the lyrics of my existence.

Down in a hole, feelin’ so small

Down in a hole, losin’ my soul

Down in a hole, outta control

I’d like to fly but my

Wings have been so denied

In moments alone, stark moments of sobriety which lasted only minutes and hours, I was buried in a hole.  I was lying to everyone I really cared about- my girlfriend Harmony, my parents, and even some of my friends.  In fact, many of my friends were becoming afraid of me.  I began to identify more with people who I once thought were too crazy or too criminal to associate with.  There were strange moments when I longed for my childhood again…  days when I felt untainted and more innocent.

Where was my soul in all of this?  I suppose I had buried it beneath the mounds of drugs, alcohol, and lapsed memories.  My conscience had been hardened in so many ways.  I didn’t care if I turned in homework at all, and I had no problem lying all of the time.  It didn’t matter to me if everything around me crumbled.  “These are all things that society just expects me to do man…”  I would reason to myself.  I may have kept a calm exterior because I was self-medicated all of the time.  But deep inside my world was spinning out of control.  “If there is a God out there he definitely wouldn’t want anything to do with me”, I often thought in my darkest moments.  I would just do another shot, smoke another bowl, pop another pill or drop another tab to try and forget about my deeper thoughts.  To me, God was a distant memory, a figment of my childhood imagination.  “Maybe God doesn’t really exist”, I thought.  “Maybe just the moral, do-gooders of the world made him up to feel like they’re better than everybody”.  These were the honest reflections of my mind as I became more marginalized by the mainstream people of my little microcosm of culture.  “No one will ever really love me”, I thought.  “Nobody really wants to understand me or know me”.  “I’m all alone in this world…  in my addiction and misery”.  I would’ve mustered the strength to pray if I thought someone was listening, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that.  How was I even sure that anyone was there?  Nobody really cared anyways, I thought to myself.

Even music had become an afterthought for me.  It was ironic, because I had originally thought that drugs would enhance my music.  Quite the opposite was true.  In years before, I had written between thirty and fifty songs a year.  In the year of 1997, I had only written about twenty songs, which were getting increasingly weird.  The recordings I made contained more mistakes than ever, and my vocals were out of key at times.  Even the sound of my voice deteriorated as I assaulted it daily with a variety of smoke, sleepless nights and hard living.  Throughout the winter and spring of 1998, and all the way into summer, I continually worked on the recording of one eight-minute song, and kept scrapping parts because I was too constantly intoxicated to produce anything of musical value.  I certainly hadn’t found the inspiration that I thought would come from LSD…  Lucy was so far away in the sky with diamonds that I couldn’t make out her distorted face in the clouds.  The only happiness I experienced was chemical… fake… and I began to view everyone and everything through that lens.  ”What a bunch of fakes and phonies” I thought about the world and society around me.

In Ohio, at Hudson High School, during the spring of 1998, the teachers had gotten tired of a bad contract and decided to go on strike.  This meant that we would get a lot of press from the local news stations.  This also meant that they would try to set up a system to keep us in school.  They sent teachers in to substitute and pick up where the others had left off.  But because of the strike we knew there was no legal requirement for us to attend.

I remember when the cameras from the local news showed up at our institution.  All the students had decided to march out of the building and skip at 10am.  There was nothing anyone could do about it- not the school board, not the cops.  When 10am arrived, we all marched our way out of the temple of learning in great defiance.  I felt like I was part of the late 1960’s.  The cameras from the news station were there as we walked out.  I was definitely out of my mind when I saw them, and was yelling expletives as they passed by…  I was shocked that I didn’t make it on the local news that night at 11pm.  Looking back I realize how silly I was to think that they’d put a loudmouth kid swearing at the camera on TV.

This began 18 days of freedom from responsibility.  It was like summer vacation.  We never went to school.  Of course I started to go completely out of control.  I was using more than I ever had before.  I honestly don’t even remember one detail about those 18 days.  I just know that I was let loose like a wild, untamed golden retriever in a vacant candy store.  I was bound to leave a trail of devastation behind…  and have no idea exactly what that devastation even looked like.

I do know that we had RockFest for our Junior year of High School after the strike was over.  I was playing bass in a psychedelic cover band with mostly guys that were older than me at the show, and was invited to play one acoustic tune on my own.  The Hudson local channel had come to film the performance and interview the performers.  I only heard about this afterwards, because they had supposedly interviewed me and I had absolutely no recollection of even talking to them.  But there I was, on local TV for all the parents of Hudson students and local authorities to see me.  I never watched what I said, but people told me that I acted completely insane and babbled in incoherent riddles.  I do also know that I played the song “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd acoustically when I had my solo spot.  I invited an older friend, Willie Martin, to sing with me.  At one point I was addressing the audience;

“Hey man…  is Willie Martin out there?” I said into the microphone before an audience of about 300 kids.  “I need him to come up and sing with me…  Yo Willie, where are you brotha?  Haha…”

I was told later that I kept asking for Willie to come up, for about 3 minutes.  He had been right next to me on the microphone to my left for about 2 of those minutes.  I do remember only the moment when I looked over and saw him.  I exclaimed,  “Oh man, there you are!”  and everyone was laughing at me.  I officially had the reputation of being a complete stoner.

The summer of 1998 was about to unleash me into a wild realm of reckless existence.  My friend Mitchell began to become afraid of doing harder drugs.  He backed away from my pursuit of deeper aberration.  I was beginning to hang out in the haunts of my town with the freaks, drop-outs and super bohemians.  I had friends in their twenties who dealt drugs.  I was stepping into a world of danger that I knew nothing about, but I didn’t care where it led me…  whether it be insanity, prison, or even death.  I know that my parents were afraid for me, but I didn’t care what they thought anymore.  I didn’t want to follow any rules except the voice of id.

Eating LSD for Breakfast, and Experiencing Hell

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Mayor Hall and Lucifer

Mayor Hall and Lucifer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I slipped into deeper depression in the Fall of 1998 than I had ever experienced before.  The summer seemed like a vague memory, and all quests for the omniscient faded into a vague fog behind me.  I had tasted and seen of the chemical darkness.  I was going to jump back down into the chasm of addiction more deeply than ever.

I was a senior in High School.  I was failing all of my classes, and I didn’t care at all.  I didn’t do homework or put in effort.  I may have had little stints where I would try and be sober and grades would start to rise, but then something would happen again and I’d be back to my old tricks.  Just to illustrate well, I was taking seventh grade math in sixth grade, and by twelfth grade I was taking tenth grade math, so I had officially fallen three years back academically.

Because of my misfit academic career, I was in a freshman level geology class.  I was the only senior there.  I had long hair far past my shoulders by this time, which was pulled behind my ears and swooping out on the edges.  I had a goatee that made me look a bit like a devil, and always wore psychedelic shirts featuring the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, Zildjan cymbals, and bands like Yes and Rush.

My girlfriend Harmony and I had broken up.  I was a scholastic ignoramus.  My creative passion for writing and creating music was at an all time low.  My addicted mind could only go back to the desire to do harder drugs again.  I had lost my way towards joy even more than before, and could not sleep unless I had done wrong; I was robbed of sleep unless I had made someone stumble. (Prov. 4:16)

These are how my nights before slumber went; I would lie awake with a guilty conscience, restless.  I would have to drink a beer or pack a pipe full of pot and smoke it just to sleep.  If not, I would be left to my thoughts.  Regrets would swarm around my mind like a legion of angry yellow-jackets, stinging my brain.  I would think of my parents, and how we had come to despise each other so much that we constantly fought, yelled and cursed.  I would think of my ex-girlfriend Harmony and the fact that she had found a new boyfriend.  I would think of all the people I had dragged down, who were living a drug infested life because of my influence.  It was too overwhelming to bear, so I would medicate myself once again, just for a night of inebriated slumber.

I was stoned all day, every day, mocked by those younger than me in High School.  I started to take LSD more intensely than before.  I would eat it in the mornings before school for breakfast with a bowl of Frosted Mini-wheats and a joint for dessert.  I would end up in strange situations at school every day…

One time I was in geology class, on acid, and having a rather bad experience on it.  We had a teacher, Mrs. Albee, who was a kind, loving and compassionate lady.  She even put up with my strange antics in class, trying to love and understand me (while occasionally making a joke towards me, which was completely understandable!).  On this day, I was having a very bad moment in my trip.  The walls were breathing, and dark shadows were everywhere, as if the power of hell was alive in the room.  I noticed something strange about Mrs. Albee.  She had what looked like a white force field around her, and none of these dark shadows and images could penetrate it.  It scared me so badly that I actually yelled out, “Whoa!!”  Then I came out of the intense wave of the drug, only to realize that an entire class of freshman were laughing at me, this crazy drug-addled maniac who had just publicly exposed his madness.

I found out later, that Mrs. Albee was a follower of Jesus…

Another time, I was on LSD with my friend, Kristian, who was angry about his Mom divorcing his Dad and leaving his home in Orange County, California, to move in with his new stepdad, whom he hated thoroughly.  In all his bitterness, Kristian would often join me on these drug escapades.  We were tripping, and I pulled my car, a 1988 Buick LeSabre with 250,000 miles on it, into his driveway (I had finally obtained my driver’s license at the age of 17).  We got out of the car and locked the doors, and I realized that I had left the keys in the ignition, with the car still running.

“Oh man, what are we gonna do???”  I exclaimed.

“Dude I don’t know!”  Kristian replied.

We knew that we would have to call the cops to unlock the door, and I had drugs and paraphernalia in every crevice of that car.  I grabbed a baseball bat from Kristian’s garage, and smashed the small, triangular window behind the rear passenger window, to bits.  We unlocked the doors and turned the car off, then duct-taped the window with grey tape.  Things like this put my flagrant drug habit on display for the world to see.  They used to call my car “The Shwag Wagon”, and people would flip a coin to not have to sit by the cold, duct-taped window while riding with me into dens of mayhem.

Deep down, I was coming apart at the seams.  I would use LSD 2 or 3 times a week, even during school.  All the friends I once had became afraid of me, because I was going crazy.  I was depressing and frightening to be around, I’m sure.

My trips began to go into a deeper realm of darkness than ever before.  There would be times when I would see skeleton shaped heads weaved into the carpet in my room.  I would stare at the floor and it would turn into a frightening scene- souls in turmoil who were being tormented in a place of punishment.  When I would see images like this, I’d ask those who were tripping around me, “Dude, do you see that?”  They would always reply, “Yeah, totally.”  We’d then describe the hallucination in detail to each other, realizing we were seeing the same thing.

This is why I believe that LSD uncovers a spiritual world that is hidden from us in every day life.  It is not a world of beauty and kaleidoscopic wonder.  It is a dark world, bereft of light and joy.  I would read of a place three years later that seemed similar to this place, a place that Jesus talked of in Luke 16:23.

As I entered the vile sub-culture of acid-freaks, I would hear stories of trips worse than my own.  One thing each person seemed to have in common was that they would literally experience hell.  I had a friend, a drug dealer, that took so much acid one day that he literally saw Satan jump out of the ground and rip his heart out before his very eyes.  I had another friend that went to an underworld, where he saw demons and minions gnawing at the souls of men.  Mind you, many of us had no belief in these things, but this drug would cause us to experience them.  I, for one, had no knowledge of the Bible or any religious upbringing or instruction, so it couldn’t have been a figment of my imagination.  The whole world of it was just plain strange and scary.

This is the cycle of addiction.  As Lenny Kravitz sang in November of 1998 on my Buick Lesabre radio in Cleveland Ohio, dialed to 100.7 WMMS radio;

I wish that I could fly

Into the sky

So very high

Just like a dragonfly

I’d fly above the trees

Over the seas in all degrees

To anywhere I please

Oh I want to get away

I want to fly away

And that was me.  I just wanted to experience an altered reality.  Even a dark reality deceived me into being better than my own.

Before you run to judge the life of a drug addict, remember this; They are enticed into a hole that they don’t feel they can dig themselves out of.  Sometimes the reality they have created for themselves is worse than the reality within their addiction.  They are truly stuck in hell.  Escape seems like a better route than dealing with all the destroyed friendships and family relationships.  It’s a vicious cycle.  An addict needs someone to penetrate through all that garbage, and give them a dose of reality and honesty, laced with love and compassion.  God gives this stuff out freely, and uses His true followers to dispense it on others.

Adderall: Prescribed to Kids with ADHD, and Abused by Drug Addicts

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English: Adderall

English: Adderall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My girlfriend left town, enrolled in an all-girl boarding school in the middle of nowhere in central Pennsylvania.  It was safe to say that I wouldn’t be able to keep in regular contact with her throughout the end of winter and spring of 1999 in Hudson, Ohio (in between Akron and Cleveland).  The months leading up to her departure in late February were filled with an over-abundance of drugs.  We had been taking ecstasy every weekend, sneaking out and going to all night rave parties in the city in the middle of the night, smoking dope all day, every day, continuing daily to be fueled by Adderall– prescription speed that Jaime’s parents had prescribed her to for her supposed ADHD.  When they were available, we’d take mushrooms, or do LSD, and we did a fair share of weird designer drugs like Nexus (2CBs- a designer hallucinogen) and Special-K (horse tranquilizer).

God and conscience had been the furthest thing from our minds, as the powerful experience of the drug ecstasy rolled us into an inter-twined love affair of blindly idealistic proportions.  This drug, technically named MDMA, brought one to an emotionally open state of mind, and a willingness to love and share deep emotions.  There was no moral compass to guide this love.  It was a blind love, a feeling, a moment.  It has been said that ecstasy is used in psychotherapy to repair broken marriages.  Any drug that would release all of the serotonin in one’s brain at once could potentially lead an individual to fall in love with a chair or a rainbow.  Jaime and I were certainly good friends and attracted to each other.  Ecstasy made us feel like we were Romeo and Juliet with the whole world crumbling around us.  I would literally sneak out in the middle of the night and come to her house.  She had a balcony at outside of her bedroom at her parents’ beautiful, large home.  She would tie together bed-sheets and throw them out of the balcony.  I would climb up, we would take whatever drugs we had, and the night would go wherever we felt like.  It was an intense physical, emotional, drug-fueled relationship.  She was a sophomore and I was a senior in High School.

Ecstasy had side effects, also.  I would try to sleep after a night of being high on it, and would have nightmares where my teeth would be grinding together, and I would be weeping and witnessing an illusory world of phantoms and angry minions cackling at me.  I would literally feel at times that I was grinding my teeth to the point where there were cracking and breaking in excruciating pain.  It wasn’t until 2 years later that I would read of the end of time and hear that “the Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:41-42)  Much like my many horrific experiences on LSD, continued use of harder drugs plunged me into an experience of hell.  A few times, I woke up in the middle of the night after doing X, and my eyes were open, but I could not move my body.  I would begin to freak out, thinking that I was in a coma and would never awake again.  I would look around at the room and it would be hazy, though behind would lurk dark shadows that formed the faces of demons staring at me.  By some weird force of divinely inspired will, I would shake myself awake, as it would be drenched in sweat and fear.  I remember the sound in my ears resembling the feeling of sand being poured in my brain.  It was what I imagined an aneurism would feel like.  Many people talk of the euphoric and idealistic world that ecstasy creates.  Not many people talk of the after effects of this extreme drug.

Whatever idealism existed was now over for Jaime and I.  She was in Pennsylvania, given a new chance to pull her failing grades up and life together.  I was stuck, strung-out and lovesick, in Hudson, Ohio.  I had one semester of High School left.  I had scored nothing but F’s and one D for the first two quarters of my senior year of High School.  I was in the third quarter, and had nothing but F’s for grades.  In some classes, I had done so little homework and miserably failed so many quizzes and tests, that I had percentages of 20 and 15 and 38.  Mrs. Romito, our Assistant Principal, called me into her office…

“You’re on the ‘hot list’ Ben.”  She said into my beet-red, tired eyes.

“What’s the ‘hot list’?”  I apathetically replied.

“It’s a list with about seven people out of the three-hundred and eighty in the senior class who are in danger of failing twelfth grade.  Ben, if you don’t pull your grades up to at least D’s and C’s, you will not graduate High School this year.  You’ll be held back…”

I sulked in despair and despondency.

“But Ben…”  Mrs. Romito continued.  “I know that you are a bright kid.  Your record shows that you were once even in gifted programs in school.  Now what you’re doing in your personal life is not your business, but I really believe that if you pull it together, you can make it to graduation this year.”

Mrs. Romito offered me what many during this dark period of life would not have offered- hope.  I also remember being at home and talking with my Mom and Dad about this situation.  Obviously, Mrs. Romito contacted them about it.

“Look man.”  My Dad, Gary White, the once hipped-out, tripped-out 70’s musician turned successful businessman said.  “I know that you are so bright and gifted Ben!  I know you have done amazing things before!  I don’t see why you can’t do the impossible now!  Pull your grades up buddy!”

My Mom supported completely this idea.  “Yeah Ben!  I know you can do it!”  She would say.  “You’re such a smart guy!  You don’t want to be left behind and watch all of your classmates graduate without you!”

My parents also believed in me when I felt the least worthy.  So I resolved to do the seemingly impossible, and in 3 months time, I would attempt to pull 15%-40% F’s up to 70%-77% D’s and C’s.

Jaime was gone from my life for the time being.  I was filled with sorrow and withdrawal from our Candy Cane world of ecstasy fueled love the months before.  But without her, there wasn’t any point in continuing the wild party.  We would converse on the phone about our dilemma.

“Jaime, we have to get out of this crap-hole we have created.”  I said

“Yeah Ben, I know.  I’m totally going to get good grades while I’m here.”  She answered back from her rural Pennsylvanian, all-girl dorm.

“I will too Jaime.  We can help each other through this.  We’ve just got to stop getting high.  Will you stop if I stop?”

“Yes Ben.  I love you.”

“I love you too…”

Was it real love that we felt?  No…  It was infatuation that began with a heavy drug experience.  But we were leaning on each other more than ever.  We both had a chance to pull it together.

But I was still a drug addict.  By this point, I was smoking marijuana all day, every day, and doing hard drugs whenever I could.  I decided that I would just change my addiction to drugs that would make me function at a higher rate and not slow my brain down.  I didn’t want to tell Jaime, but I connected with other kids that were prescribed Adderall, a lighter form of meth-amphetamine.  I began to steadily supply myself with Adderall pills.  I resolved to not smoke pot, drink, or take hard drugs like psychedelics or Ecstasy.  I would, however, take stimulants.

This is how a day at school looked for me when this shift in habit began.

6 a.m.- wake up in a groggy haze, have a bowl of cereal or toast and then a cigarette or two.

6:30 a.m.- Brew an entire 12-cup pot of double-strength coffee.  Drink half of it at home- dark and black.

6:45 a.m.- Fill up a 6-cup thermos with the other half of the pot of coffee, say goodbye to parents.  Get in my 1988 Buick LeSabre and head to school.  Down an orange, 20 mg. pill of Adderall with a swig of coffee.  Smoke 3 more cigarettes.

7:00 a.m.- Arrive at school.  Talk to no one.  Study or read for 30 minutes before homeroom.  Let Adderall, nicotine and coffee begin to speed me up into a frenzy.

7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.- Go about my day of school in an over-stimulated, over-talkative fit of madness.  Smoke a cigarette in the bathroom in-between every period.  Participate in class and turn in homework at a more consistent rate than ever.

12:30 p.m.- Skip lunch, snort 20 mg. of a crushed up, orange Adderall pill.  Begin speeding.  Depending on sleep and food intake, potentially begin to hallucinate or get delusional.

1 p.m. to 3 p.m.- Finish day of school, speeding out of my mind and making all sorts of new friends.  Some scared of me, some finding me amusing.

3:30 p.m.- Drive home, finish the last of the pack of cigarettes that I had started that day, and open another.

4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.- Arrive home, Brew more coffee.  Snort or eat 20 more mg. of Adderall.  Smoke more cigarettes.  Begin to do homework.

9:00 p.m. – 4:00 a.m.- Snort or eat 20 more mg. of Adderall.  Do more homework, reading and studying.  Talk to Jaime at some point on the phone- telling her that I was staying clean, and hearing the same from her.  Do more homework.  Record music.  Write poetry.  Go outside and smoke.  Play music.  Do homework.  Talk out loud to myself while smoking outside in the dark.  Stare at the carpet on my floor and see demons writhing and gnawing at each other’s flesh.  Try to sleep.  No success.  Force myself to eat a couple of pretzels- they taste dry and disgusting.  Do more homework.  Smoke.  Play music.  Think about Jaime.  Try to sleep.  Cook a can of vegetable soup and force myself to eat it.  Speed wears off.  Crash into a deep oblivion.

6 a.m.- Wake up and do the same thing, with potential variances but consistent stimulant intake, again.

I was drinking 2 pots of coffee, smoking 2 packs of cigarettes, and taking between 60 and 100 milligrams of Adderall a day.  I was a speeding frenzy.  I would barely eat one and a half meals a day.  I was six-feet, zero inches tall, and weighed 160 lbs.  After doing this amount of speed for 3 months, I weighed 133 lbs.  My ribs would show through a t-shirt.  I had long hair pulled behind my ears and deep blue, skeleton-esque circles under my eyes.  Yet through all of this, there would be nights when I would literally do between 3 and 10 days of homework for all 7 of my classes in one night.  I had no study halls in school, because all my periods had to be full for me to even consider passing twelfth grade.  I was running myself ragged and crazy, with speed, caffeine and nicotine fueling me all the way.

During this time, I may have slipped up and smoked weed a couple of times.  I would always tell Jaime when it happened, and she would act disappointed.  I never told her about the speed intake, though.

Granted, Adderall was a legal, prescribed drug given to kids with ADHD.  But this stuff was speed- it had meth-amphetamine as its’ active ingredient!  When taken in higher doses, it kept my brain working functionally.  But there would be times that I was so sleep deprived, that I would begin to dream lucidly while awake.  I would look at the chalkboard in the class I was in and see skeletons made of chalk dust begin to swordfight.  One time I was deeply low on food intake and sleep, and tremendously high on Adderall.  I saw a dark purple figure before my eyes every time that I blinked that looked like a cloaked man.  The ghost of Christmas future.  The grim reaper himself- the bringer of death.  I thought that I was going to die of a heart attack and he was going to take me away.

People saw this drug as a help to society.  Most of the kids prescribed to it abused it as much as me, and were just as delusional and messed-up as I was.  When the drug would take a hold of you, it would give you such intense euphoria that chills would run all throughout your body constantly.

The end of high school neared.  My once failing grades were now all C’s, D’s, and even a B.  I was called in once again to Mrs. Romito’s office.

I scurried in to her room in a frenzied state.  My hair in a pony-tail.  My face all flushed from speed and caffeine.  My pupils dilated and eyes wide open.

“Ben…”  Mrs. Romito said.  “You made it.  You graduated.  I knew you could do it.”

Though I was a crazy, frenzied mess.  I had stayed over-stimulated enough to pull my grades together.  I wouldn’t be held back.  I would graduate High School.  Jaime did well at her school in Pennsylvania.  She got A’s and B’s.  She wanted to transfer back to Hudson High School to be with me and her friends.

But were we strong enough to begin a new chapter?  We were still addicts.  When she first arrived home she saw how skinny and dilapidated I was, and I had to admit to my speed abuse.  I would soon after quit taking speed.  But what was the summer to bring us?  We were to be released into the wild world of graduated freedom, crazy kids, smoke filled air, bright sunshine and ponds where people took drugs, drank beer and had sex.  The dark nights ahead were screaming our name as Jesus lingered, hidden behind the clouds as the prodigal son was knowingly about to squander his property in reckless living. (Luke 15:13)  It seems as if He may have known that one day His arms would be open wide, as the sick child returned in unworthy tears and grief.  Only to embrace and hold close to this tattered mess of a person in reckless, forgiving love.

Doing Mushrooms at Prom

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Nathan Hale HS Prom, 1983

Nathan Hale HS Prom, 1983 (Photo credit: litlnemo)

As the year slid into the summer of 1999, I wanted my world to be freer than ever.  I had stayed sober from psychedelic and harder drugs for 3 months in order to attempt graduating high school.  I had succeeded by the skin of my teeth, and my marginal success had dumped me back into libertine freedom.  I had used self-control to avoid the humiliation of staying back a grade in my senior year and joining the class of 2000.  As soon as I accomplished what I had to, I let my inhibitions go once again.

There is no institutional moment that a typical high-school student longs for more than their senior prom.  Mine was on its’ way.  My girlfriend Jamie had been away at an all-girls school in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, for almost the entire spring semester of that year.  She was to return back to the town of Hudson, Ohio, and back into my life.  She had made a few friends during her stint at the school who were partiers, but she swore up and down that her sobriety had remained in tact.  She had only continued to smoke Camel Red Lights daily, drink coffee, and study, or so she said.  Of course, our MDMA fueled romance led me to believe what I wanted to believe- that she was completely faithful to her word and to me.  To this day, I’m unsure of details as to how many lies were flying around, but I was equally guilty of living in a fantasy world.

Jamie was to be my prom date at the senior prom of 1999.  Hudson High School was a wealthy school fueled by stinking rich, Upper-Middle class taxpayers.  We were to have our senior prom at the newly built Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland Ohio.  This should have been a dream come true for me, as my life was fueled by the inductees who did and were to line the halls…  people like Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Sting, Jim Morrison, Bono, Eddie Van Halen, Kurt Cobain and Lars Ulrich.  But by this point, drugs and their subsequent selfish pursuits had pulled me far away from pursuing the heights with playing music.  I hadn’t been in a well functioning band in years, and my efforts at making music were very secluded and personal.  I made songs for Jaime and myself instead of sharing them with my peers.  To make it worse, the rival high-school band, who went by the name “Discordant”, had become far more popular than me and my friends.  They were going to play live on the Rock Hall’s prestigious stage during our prom.  I hated them passionately for this.  Joni Mitchell, the great folk songwriter who began her career in the late sixties once wrote;

Oh the jealousy, the greed is the unraveling

It’s the unraveling

And it undoes all the joy that could be

When James, the brother of Jesus, spoke of the jealousy that was among Jesus’ early followers, he said that “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:16), and he was speaking to people who were supposed to have known better.  I suppose in a way, I should’ve known better as well.  But just like Joni Mitchell and James the brother of Jesus collaboratively pointed out nineteen centuries apart, my jealousy was unraveling my soul and leading me down a road of bitterness and stagnant soul-eradication.

This is the downward spiral of the drug user.  One who uses drugs to cope with life becomes more and more disabled within reality.  Deep inside I hated most everyone, especially those who were “succeeding” in life, I loathed myself for my disinclined suicidal tendencies and instead of rightfully blaming myself and beginning to deal with the problems that plagued me, I blamed everyone else.  I was the victim in their cruel game.  As long as I stayed high or drunk, everything would at least seem serene.

The High School prom of Hudson High in 1999 was an amazing party that only the most privileged would have attended, relishing the memory for years beyond.  Jamie and I went and had dinner with another couple, my friend Duane and his date Kali, we attended the prom, fueled by an over-load of caffeine and nicotine.  We slow danced a few times and I sat in rage and sweaty bitterness as Discordant played through their pop rock set, complaining to Jamie about how much they were sell-outs that sucked, though inwardly I wished I was in their place.  In my mind were delusions of grandeur, the way life should have been.  Me up there on the Rock Hall stage playing solo with my back up band…  “Ben White and the Misfits of Love”, singing original tunes that made people cry and ponder the deep things of life.  Instead, I was a washed up drug addict that had barely made it out of High School, with his drug addict girlfriend who was two years younger than him.

During the “after-prom”, they had decked out the Hudson High School gymnasium with inflatable obstacle courses, games, photo booths, memories, and other joyous moments of the past four years that our entire class could share together.

Jamie and I ditched the after-prom, and headed to the backyard of my parents’ house.  It was 1 a.m. and they were asleep.  I had a half ounce of psilocybin mushrooms, and we were going to take a small dose and trip the night away.  Forget our peers.  Forget meaningful social ties.  We were wanna-be hippies and just wanted to do what we always did best; hide in a vacuum and waste our lives away.

We each took a small dose of psilocybin mushrooms and sat in my parents’ backyard, staring at the canopy of the trees above us as it merged and twisted like a kaleidoscope.  Our peers were at the all night lock-in at my High School, which was a couple of miles away from my parents’ house.  There we were, alone and tripping, the dissenters continuing their lone escapade.  We stayed up all night, most of which I don’t recall, and the morning brought in a new summer that would certainly be filled with wanton hedonism.

We had purchased these mushrooms at a large reenactment of the 1969 Woodstock concert aptly named “Hookahville” somewhere in the middle of nowhere in central Ohio.  Jamie and I had paid about $50 apiece to enter the concert for one day, even though we paid for the three day event.  We couldn’t come up with lies to stay all three days together, because we knew our parents would figure out we were both gone.

Hookahville was a wild array of hippies, and proved that even in the year 1999, the Grateful Dead’s anthem “Golden road to unlimited devotion”, written in 1967, was still being lived out;

Well everybody’s dancin’ in a ring around the sun

Nobody’s finished, we ain’t even begun.

So take off your shoes, child, and take off your hat.

Try on your wings and find out where it’s at.

This place was a huge collection of hippies.  There were people with long hair and beards that walked around in a thick haze of psychedelic craziness.  Many people were wearing tie-dyes and bell bottoms, and the air smelled of dope smoke and patchouli incense.  These were happenings where somehow the cops couldn’t come, either.  So there were literally little stands that sold balls of peanut butter and marijuana for $10 and called them “Dank Goo-Balls”.  For me at the time, I felt that I had stepped into a utopian dream, though really, it was a disturbing place full of darkness and people wandering around on an imaginary lost planet.

But being the gregarious one I was, I knew what Jamie and I had come for.  I wanted to find a bag of psilocybin mushrooms.  I literally walked around just yelling; “Shrooms!  Does anybody have shrooms?”  Even Jamie thought I was totally crazy.

A wild cat heard me.  He had black opal dilated pupils, and was thin as a rail with a huge beard, long hair, and a tall hat that belonged on the head of the Mad Hatter of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.  “Hey man, you need shrooms?”  He said, obviously tripping on them himself.  “Yeah that’d be great man.”  I responded, trying my best at the age of seventeen to appear like an experienced hippie.

That was where we scored our half ounce of mushrooms for prom.  We didn’t stick around long for Hookahville after, even though the Grateful Dead spin-off band “Ratdog” led by ex-Dead guitarist and singer Bob Weir, were on the stage, making all the hippies dance like it was the summer of love.  We needed to get back home before curfew.

Fast-forward to the day after prom, after the first dose of those shrooms had been consumed.  Jaime had to head back to her boarding school in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania to take her finals.  We had only taken a very small amount of these mushrooms, and I was left with more than three-eighths of an ounce of them to myself.  When Jaime headed back for her finals, she made me promise her something.  She pleaded with me; “Ben, please save these for me so we can do them together again.”  Of course I agreed.  But I was a drug-head with an insatiable hunger to do stupid things.  I hadn’t yet tasted the sweet honey of wisdom, the “drippings of the honeycomb sweet to the taste, such could wisdom have been to my soul; where if I had found it, there would be a future, and my hope would not be cut off.” (Prov. 24:13-14)  Instead, I was often tasting the bitter gall of sin and self-loathing.  Leaving a huge bag of mushrooms in the hands of such a young man was a bad thing to do…